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An interesting read about Benson's history

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Saints' problems started with the firing of Randy Mueller Blame the guy at the top One day after the New Orleans Saints fell off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean, the silence out of Saints camp on Monday was deafening. ...

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Old 02-09-2005, 09:55 PM   #1
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An interesting read about Benson's history

Saints' problems started with the firing of Randy Mueller
Blame the guy at the top

One day after the New Orleans Saints fell off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean, the silence out of Saints camp on Monday was deafening.

We've been down this road before. The Saints get humiliated, and then treat a hemorrhage with a Band-Aid.

Bag-heads, anyone?

It's Tom Benson's "management style," something he repeatedly alluded to when the Saints owner inexplicably fired Randy Mueller, the club's general manager for about 30 months before Benson canned him in the spring of 2002.

Let's take a quick look at some of Benson's critical front-office hires since Jim Mora flamed out in the mid-'90s, after leading the Saints to four NFL playoff appearances from 1987 until 1992.

For starters, there's Bill Kuharich. Benson made the glorified scout the team's de facto general manager, and Mora's "boss," after showing classy executive Jim Miller the door about 10 years ago.

When the fertilizer hit the fan, which it certainly did Sunday in the Saints' 43-17 loss to Drew Brees and the San Diego Chargers, Kuharich's inclination was to hide under his desk and cover his keister.

Then there's Mike Ditka.

Oh my.

The National Rifle Association may be down with shooting fish in a barrel, but frankly, I'm tired of hammering Duh Coach. He came, he saw, he stole his money.

At least Ditka is doing some homework these days with ESPN.

Then there's Arnold Fielkow, a likable fellow who happens to run the business side of the Saints' operation. In other words, the guy who has Benson's ear. The guy who signs off on marketing decisions, Superdome/Tom Benson Stadium strategies and everything else that makes the Saints one of the clumsiest organizations in all of professional sports.

Jim Mora wouldn't have become the best coach in Saints history (a backhanded compliment, to be sure) without the steady influence of the late, great Jim Finks.

Mora didn't have people skills. Finks had them. In spades.

Mueller wasn't quite as chummy with the press as Finks was, but hey, that's OK. It doesn't work for everybody.

Exhibit A, Bill Parcells. Exhibit B, his protégé, Bill Belichick. They've won four Super Bowls between them, and John Ashcroft would be warmer, and fuzzier, at an ACLU convention.

(One time, Finks took me on a wild ride through the streets of LaCrosse, Wis., just to watch me leap from the passenger's seat when we finally got back to the dorm. My man got a kick outta that one. What a guy, Mr. Finks. He is missed, by a lot of us.)

Benson should have had the chutzpah to do something in the wake of San Diego 43, New Orleans 17, but his idea of damage control is taking a couple bucks off the nosebleed seats in the Superdome.

Jim Haslett will be on the sideline for Sunday's home game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

As Monday's column in The Sun Herald stressed, I like Haz. He's a good dude. He's in a tough situation. Mickey Loomis is the Saints' general manager, but the surly Kyle Turley might have been right on when he called Loomis a "bean counter" after being traded to the St. Louis Rams.

Benson counts beans with the best of 'em, and it appears Loomis, rather than Haslett, will survive this disastrous season.

We shouldn't be surprised.

Kuharich was still doing his thing on Airline Drive when Ditka was introduced as the Saints' coach in 1997. Mora's assistants refused to work for Haslett, who was then the club's defensive coordinator, prompting Benson to instead turn to Rick Venturi midway through the Saints' 3-13 campaign in 1996.

The list of failed Saints executives, under Benson alone, is long and not so distinguished.

Kuharich. Loomis. Chet Franklin. Ditka. (It was Mike's call, trading every draft pick he had to grab Ricky Williams.)

Tom Benson has met the enemy, and, naturally, the enemy is Tom Benson.

Somewhere, Jim Finks is shaking his head in disbelief.

It's a shame.


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